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P harmaceuticals in the Environment EPA Region 2 Science Day Pharmaceuticals & Personal Care Products (PPCP) Workshop October 26, 2005 Mary E. Buzby Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. Industry Strategy. A science-based approach:

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Pharmaceuticals in the EnvironmentEPA Region 2 Science DayPharmaceuticals & Personal Care Products (PPCP) WorkshopOctober 26, 2005Mary E. BuzbyPharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America

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Industry Strategy

  • A science-based approach:

    • is required to understand and address concerns resulting from detection of pharmaceutical compounds in the environment

    • will identify gaps in existing knowledge that require further investigation regarding the potential for impacts

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Benefits of a Science Based Approach to PIE

  • This type of approach will:

    • provide confidence to the industry, communities and governments that safety of pharmaceuticals in the environment is well understood

    • provide data needed to prioritize issues requiring further investigation regarding existence and significance of potential impacts

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PhRMA Activities

  • Publications

    • PhATE™ publication in ES&T (2004)

    • Letters to Editors on PIE publications

    • Publications by PhRMA members and associates

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PhRMA PIE Publications (Recent and in Preparation)

  • Human health risk assessment (Schwab et al., 2005)

  • Till (2005) The detection of pharmaceutical compounds in surface water is a matter of significant interest to the pharmaceutical industry. Sci. Tot. Environ. In press.

  • Till (2005) Pharmaceutical data do not elude researchers. Environ. Sci. Technol. (ES&T, Oct 1 2005, p 292a)

  • Implications for Potential Aquatic Life Impacts. Environ. Sci. Technol. Reviewed and in revision.

  • Carbamazepine risk assessment (SETAC presentation, Nov, 2005)

  • Analgesics case study (SETAC poster, Nov, 2005)

  • Do pharmaceuticals in surface waters pose a risk to human health? In preparation. Planned submission 2005

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Pharmaceuticals in the Environment

Patient Use is the Primary Pathway by which Human Pharmaceutical Compounds Enter the Environment

Sewage Treatment Plant

Drinking Water Treatment Plant

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  • EPA ORD Workshop in Las Vegas

  • Working toward closer coordination between PhRMA and Interagency Task Group on PPCPs in the Environment

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PhRMA – PhATE™ Model

  • Model predicts concentrations of pharmaceuticals in the environment due to patient use

  • Model was developed by PhRMA PIE Task Force and AMEC Earth and Environmental

  • Third party reviewers:

    • Dr. Josh Cohen, Harvard School of Public Health

    • Dr. Steve Chapra, Tufts University

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PhATE - Model Description



Annual US Sales (IMS)


  • For 11 U.S. watersheds:

  • Population Distribution

  • Sewage Treatment Plant Flows

  • Stream/River Flows

  • Drinking Water Treatment Plant

  • Flows

  • Human Health Risk Assessment Module

  • Percent Removal

  • at Each Step

    • Metabolism

    • Wastewater Treatment

    • In-Stream Loss

    • Drinking Water Treatment

  • Predicted Concentrations

    • In Sewage Treatment Plant

    • Effluent

    • In Streams/Rivers

    • In Drinking Water

Acceptable Daily

Intake (ADI) or toxicity data

Predicted No Effect Concentration for Human Health

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Example PhATE™ Output: cimetidine

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PhATE Related Publications

  • USGS Paper:

    Kolpin, et al., Pharmaceuticals, Hormones, & Other Wastewater Contaminants in U.S. Streams, 1999-2000: A National Reconnaissance, ES&T. 2002, 36, 1202-1211.

  • PhATE™ Paper:

    Anderson, et al., Screening Analysis of Human Pharmaceutical Compounds in US Surface Waters, ES&T. 2004, 38, 834-849.

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Summary of PhATE™ Manuscript Findings

  • PhATE PECs generally had a good fit with USGS measured data.

  • Comparing the PECs to the measured data identified some questionable analytical findings.

  • PhATE PECs allow the evaluation of potential effects at concentrations below detection limits.

  • Comparing PECs to measured data allows the evaluation of the adequacy of POTW and in-stream removal mechanism data.

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PhATE Model Enhancements

  • Latest modifications (2005)

    • GIS module for enhanced presentation of PhATE results and geographic analysis tool

  • Planned modifications (2006)

    • Estimate partitioning and removal in POTWs

    • Estimate potential exposures to APIs in biosolids

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Human Health Screening Analysis

  • Analysis included 26 USGS human health pharmaceuticals

    • Non-steroidal analgesics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory

    • Opiate analgesic

    • Bronchodilator

    • H2 receptor antagonists

    • Antimicrobial, antibiotics, antibacterial

    • Calcium blocker, ACE inhibitor, anti-hypertensives

    • Serotonin uptake inhibitors, anti-depressive

    • Hypoglycemic

    • Anti-coagulant

    • Cardiac glycoside

    • Anti-hyperlipidemic

  • Compounds studied excluded hormones which are being evaluated separately due to the complexity of that evaluation

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Human Health Screening Analysis

  • Identified measured environmental concentrations for compounds reported in published articles (MEC)

  • Used PhATE™ in screening mode to predict concentrations in environment

  • Developed predicted no effect concentrations (PNEC)

    • Considered drinking water and fish consumption exposure pathways

  • Evaluated MEC/PNEC and PEC/PNEC ratios



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Human Health Screening Analysis

Human pharmaceuticals in US surface waters: A human health risk assessment, Schwab, et al. Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, Volume 42, Issue 3, Pages 296-312 (August, 2005)

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Human Health Screening

  • Results of human health assessment indicate that residues of these pharmaceuticals in water present no appreciable risk to human health.

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Other Human Health Publications

  • Christensen, F.M. (1998) Pharmaceuticals in the environment – A Human Risk?, Reg. Toxicol. & Pharmacol., 28, 212-221.

  • Schulman, et al., (2002) A human health risk assessment of pharmaceuticals in the aquatic environment, Human & Ecological Risk Assessment, 8 (4), pp. 657-680.

  • Mons, M.N., (2003) Pharmaceuticals and drinking water supply in the Netherlands, Kiwa N.V. Water Research.

  • Webb, et al., (2003) Indirect human exposure to pharmaceuticals via drinking water, Toxicology Letters, 142, 157-167.

    All concluded that environmental exposure to human pharmaceuticals presents no appreciable risk to human health.

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Development of Aquatic Life Data Base

  • English language, peer-reviewed literature

    • chronic and acute effects to aquatic organisms

    • fate and transport and treatment removal

  • Bibliographic information entered for 781 articles

    • 308 chronic and acute effects

    • 473 fate and transport / treatment

  • Progress to date

    • data from 228 articles have been entered

    • data from remaining 553 articles will be entered by 2007

    • data from 30-40 new articles entered each quarter

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Triangles represent acute benchmarks.

Squares represent chronic benchmarks.

NBR = Not biologically relevant

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PhRMA Activities

  • Expired/Unused Medicines

    • Evaluate and consider appropriate disposal and management options for expired/unused prescription medicines

      • Continuing to apply science based approach

      • Considering take-back in context of information available through PhATE, human health assessment and aquatic life data base

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Patient Drug Sources

Patient Drug Sources

Patient Drug Sources







Surface Water

Surface Water

Surface Water


































MSW Landfill

MSW Landfill

MSW Landfill




A simplified view of patient contributions to PIE




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Number of Prescriptions

Weight of (Non-Hospital and Clinic) Prescriptions

3.4 billion

Pills: 40.0 MM lbs.

Pills & containers: 143.0 MM lbs.

% (Non-Hospital or Clinic) Prescriptions Unused

20 %

10 %

5 %

Best Est. %

28.6 MM lbs

14.3 MM lbs

7.2 MM lbs

4.3 MM lbs

The quantity of unused medicines depends on the assumptions used.

By weight of pills and containers

Based on blended individual and LTCF “wastage” rates

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Unused medicines management practices vary depending on who holds the unused medicine.



  • Most unused medicines returned for credit

  • Use their pharmacies to return for credit

  • Unreturnables:

    • Ordinary IV  drain

    • Chemo IV  HW

    • Pills  Medical Waste

Long Term Care Facilities


  • Source of 34% (1.5 MM lbs) of unused medicines

  • 4% to 10% wastage

  • Typical disposal practice is flushing down the drain

  • Source of 66% (2.8 MM lbs) of unused medicines













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Expired/Unused Medicines holds the unused medicine.

Factors that influence unused medicines

Quantity of Unused Medicines

Current Management Practices

State Requirements

Unused Medicines

Federal Requirements

International Initiatives

Other Industry Take-Back Programs

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Review of other Take-Back programs holds the unused medicine.

  • Existing Take-Back Programs

    • BCI Lead-Acid Batteries

    • RBRC Rechargeable Batteries

    • CSCND Sharps

    • Eureka Sharps

    • TRC Thermostats

    • Staples Printer Cartridges

    • Collective Good Cell Phones

    • CTIA Cell Phones

    • Dell Computers

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Review of other Take-Back programs holds the unused medicine.

  • Program variables

    • Funding

    • Implementation

    • Collection

    • Incentive

    • Fate

    • Results

  • Most products recycled or reused

  • Most recovery rates < 20%

    • Exception is lead acid and rechargable batteries

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Sources of Expired/Unused Medicines holds the unused medicine.

  • Majority of pharmaceuticals in the environment come from patient use.

  • Disposal of unused medicines in Subtitle D landfills is unlikely to be a significant source of environmental concentrations.

  • Disposal of unused medicines by patients is a comparatively minor contributor to environmental concentrations.

  • Long term care facilities could generate one-third of unused medicines.

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Unused Medicines – Considerations holds the unused medicine.

  • Drain disposal should be avoided

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Unused Medicine Disposal holds the unused medicine.

  • The pharmaceutical industry encourages patients to follow their doctor or pharmacist’s instructions when taking prescription medications. However, from time to time it may be necessary to discard unused medications, for example when medications are no longer necessary or have expired.

  • When discarding unused medications, it is important to do so in a way that minimizes the potential for harm to people, pets, or the environment. While no single preferred disposal method has been identified for all products and situations, it is generally acceptable to discard unused medications in household trash providing you have made it secure from children and pets. Consider securing any childproof closures and placing the medication in a sealed opaque bag or container to keep it out of sight.

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Unused Medicines – Considerations holds the unused medicine.

  • Decisions on take-back of prescription medicines need to consider:

    • ongoing occurrence, fate and effects research

    • effectiveness of the existing municipal solid waste infrastructure

    • local, state and federal regulatory requirements

    • rules and standards of the national and state boards of pharmacy

    • estimated recovery rates and public acceptance

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Summary holds the unused medicine.

  • The industry is committed to assessing the significance of pharmaceuticals in the environment using science- based approaches.

  • The human health assessment indicates that pharmaceuticals in drinking water for the compounds investigated to date present no appreciable risk to human health.

  • The industry is evaluating published data on aquatic life impacts and formulating an approach to assess the potential for impacts to ecosystems.

  • The industry is continuing to research sources of unused medicine, to identify options for their disposal and to participate in discussions with stakeholders on these issues.